Hello. Anyone still out there? Anyone still interested in Obstructed View? If Yes to both, read on, if not, you’ve already wasted 8 seconds of your life getting to this point.
I ran out of steam and enthusiasm for writing Obstructed View after Wolves beat us at The Old Lady back in February, so it seems like a nice bridge to the hiatus to write again after, well, Wolves. Cue “you only sing when you’re winning”, neatly sidestepping the fact that after Wolves embarrassed us, or rather we embarrassed ourselves, we won 6, drew 3, but lost another 4 games to finish the season strongly-ish to finish 8th, just 3 measly points behind, guess who, Wolves. Am I back for good? Do you even care? Well, no I’m not, even if you do. I’ll write a few, keeping my hand in (matron), but writing after every league game is a bit of a pain when you can’t think of any new insight, let alone sarcastic references to players and our opponents, or even referees, despite them doing everything they can to get themselves noticed by poor decision-making, and VAR doing its best to determine if someone’s armpit was offside in the build up to a goal.
Let’s see how it goes…..
Back to Wolves on Saturday.
That was a game that in the dark period over late Autumn and Winter last year, we’d have lost. But what’s this? Backbone? Resolve? Togetherness? And 3 goals? Hang on, the swallows haven’t yet returned to southern Africa (who knew British swallows flew that far south, surely they could winter in Benidorm with the 300, 000 ex pats keen to feed them morsels (morcilla?) off their plates), so one win doesn’t make a summer holiday (*this analogy needs more work….) complete. Anyone who witnessed a tame capitulation at Villa will tell you that, and at least let’s wait until after Bournemouth away in our next game, a part of the country where we seem to have even less success than we do in the Smoke.
But let’s take Sunday for what it was – encouraging. Whilst we showed vulnerability under Rory Delap’s long throws and Tony Pulis’ long ball tactics, we defended pretty well. Traore rinsed Digne to set up their first equaliser, which was a big shock to those of us that have seen the zippy wide man leave his defender for dust only to shank his crosses in to row A when it was easier to put the ball in the box; but his final ball for this goal was good, even if it took a massive slice of luck to hit the back heel of Coleman to set up Saiss to score. And Bennett’s succession of long throws eventually yielded a dividend when Boly nodded on for Jimenez to scoop and score, ignoring Digne’s excellent effort to kick his head off. Top Tip Blues – if future oppo have a long throw merchant and a 6ft 5in lamppost to aim at, stick Mina under it as well.
Yes, we succumbed twice, but scored once more to regain a lead, a feat I can’t remember us doing that often in the past. Going forward we always looked a threat, Kean is going to score us a dozen goals this season, and I’m expecting DCL or Tosun (yes, really) to get a dozen between them, Iwobi will prosper more than at Arsenal as he’d pushed further forward and he’s getting “Proper Nice” balls played in to him; Sigurdsson will get plenty, and who knows, maybe the wee Brazilian will get a few too. What is certain, tempting fate here, is that the ever-smiley Richarlison will get a dozen or more as well.
We might bemoan we don’t have a 20 or even 30 goals a season striker, but spreading the love out amongst more players, makes us that bit more difficult to play against, and so in and of itself helps to ensure the goals get spread throughout the team. I’m also expecting more goals from our defenders, especially the other keen Keane, who seems to get in to really good positions, and once he an Mina stop going for the same ball, both will bag a few. But the highlight of Sunday for me, was the axis that was Gomes and Delph.
Do I miss Gueye, yes, you bet; but in Delph we have another voice on the pitch, a strong one, witness his shouting and directing of Moise Kean to get more closing down up top, and someone who is happy to stick his foot in for the crunchers. He’s not the wasp-like irritant of Idrissa, but he looked calmer, more controlling, and certainly better passing that the wee Senegalese. With Gbamin, eventually, with Schneiderlin, and even Davies, we seem well catered for in this department, and I thought we played really well from front to back. Iwobi offers a bit more (not just the 6 inches – stop sniggering at the back….) than Bernard, but the jinking Capoeiran gave the Wolves defence something else to worry about in the last phase of the match, so again, some extra strings to our bow.
I’m delighted with the win, especially as it moves us in to the top 6, and I’m happy with the team and squad we’ve built, and even more pleased with signs of a new team spirit, personified by Pickford hurtling the length of the pitch at Lincoln to manhandle one of their Orks. I’m pleased we’ve shifted some deadwood, if not quite all of it, I’m pleased that the right fringe players have got the right loans to prove themselves (well, Kenny has), and I’m pleased with the openness and honesty shown by our Manager and Director of Football and how this is fostering strong relations between fans and Club. Losing 4-0 at Bournemouth won’t change that, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen: based on the XI we had on Sunday, and the style and fight with which we played, it won’t.
Telling final word – look at our XI on Sunday, and tell me who, outside of the teams City and the RS put out, who would you want in that team from United, Chelsea, Spurs or Arsenal. It’s not a very long list is it?